146 Chifley to Fraser

Cablegram 36 CANBERRA, 10 March 1949, 11.30 a.m.


Thank you for your telegram No. 35 [1]. I am in general agreement with your point of view and any difference of agreement arises out of the fact which you point out that Australia is more closely linked with South East Asia than is New Zealand.

However, you will observe from the aide-memoire [2] (prepared for Dr.Evatt before he left for India) a copy of which was sent to you through your High Commissioner at Canberra, that we have taken particular care to stress that our interest is in the Western Pacific South East Asian region which we consider stretched from New Zealand to Pakistan. We pointed out that we had no interest from a regional point of view in the wider group which was represented at the New Delhi conference.

I think if you will examine that aide-memoire many of your difficulties would be overcome. Primarily the regional arrangement we have in mind is an association of nations in this area which would act as a regional arrangement according to the Charter, and in particular endeavour to co-ordinate and give direction to the activities of the regional specialised agencies such as I.L.O., the World Health Organization, the Economic Commission and so on.

We endeavoured to avoid the creation of any formal machinery by merely adopting the scheme which exists between our two administrations, that is, having an officer in each foreign office whose primary duty would be to keep in touch with the governments of the region.

Concerning membership, it is our present view that there are distinct advantages in including only self-governing states and providing for colonial areas to be represented by local administrations. I know Nehru is keen on this as he is most anxious to avoid the regional group becoming the ineffective group it would be if all great powers had to be included. You will be aware of the experiences of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East. Procedural difficulties and political irrelevancies prevent it getting on with its work. The experience of the New Delhi Conference on the contrary was that in the absence of the great powers, the countries directly concerned in the region were able to get down to work without these political irrelevancies interfering. I understand that this view was strongly supported by the United States Government and also personally by Mr. MacDonald at Singapore.

The question is whether we stand apart from Asia and refuse invitations to join with them in their deliberations or whether we endeavour to co-operate, particularly with India and Pakistan in an endeavour to remove some of the economic and political causes of unrest in that area. Personally I am extremely impressed by Nehru's power of leadership and his good sense. If we can make any contribution from an educational or technical or advisory point of view so much the better. [3]

1 Document 145.

2 Document 149.

3 Fraser's reply, cablegram 40, dispatched is March 1949, stated that Chifley's response did 'not cover the actual points I made nor does it [al]lay my great uneasiness over the possible consequences for New Zealand as a result of the proposed Australian Membership of the South East Asia Regional Association.' Fraser ]so urged that 'no commitment be made until our two Government, have had an opportunity for a full exchange of views.'

[AA:A1838, 851/18/3]